Skip to content

Europa League Preview: FC Basel v. Chelsea

Apr 25, 2013, 12:20 PM EDT

Chelsea add Egyptian winger Mohammed Salah. Getty Images

When Chelsea head to St. Jakob’s Park to take on FC Basel in the first-leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, it will mark the first competitive encounter between the two clubs.

How They Got There

Basel made it to the semi-final stage after eliminating Tottenham 4-1 on penalties after a second leg 2-2 draw left the teams locked 4-4 on aggregate. The feat took the Swiss side’s record against English clubs to three wins, seven draws and eight loses, with all three victories coming on home soil. And it’s no secret that home fixtures are where the RotBlau thrive. Since the start of the group stage Basel have gone unbeaten in their last six Europa League contests at St. Jakob’s Park.

Chelsea qualified for the last four with a 5-4 aggregate win over Rubin Kazan. The Blues only previous encounter with Swiss opponents was a loss at the hands of FC St. Gallen in the first round of the 2000-01 UEFA Cup. After Chelsea managed a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, the Blues couldn’t handle the rigors of Zurich’s Hardturm Stadium and lost 2-0. This season, the road has been equally unkind to Rafa Benitez’ men who have lost four of their past five European away games.

What’s On The Line

Having entered the competition in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, Basel has played more European matches this season (18) than any other remaining club. With a win on Thursday, Murat Yakin’s side, who have won three straight domestic titles, will become the first Swiss club to reach a European final.

Along with Benfica, Chelsea are the only side left in the Europa League that entered the competition after crashing out of the Champions League group stage. A win on Thursday will be a key step in Chelsea’s bid to become the first side to win the Champions League and Europa League in reverse order in consecutive seasons.

Key Matchups

The first matchup likely to have an affect on the outcome is between Chelsea striker Fernando Torres and Basel center-back Alexander Dragovic.

Torres, along with Basel’s Marco Streller and Benfica’s Óscar Cardozo, leads the competition in goals scored with four apiece. The Chelsea hitman has scored three goals in his last two Europa League competitions, the second being a dominant brace emblematic of the Spaniard’s new found confidence. Since donning the black face protector – which Torres claims is very uncomfortable – the striker has looked lighter on his feet, been more decisive in his decision making and shown an aerial dominance for which he is not typically known.

It’s a combination that Dragovic will be tasked to contain. The 6′ 1″ center-back is well known for his powerful style, which should make for a good physical battle with Torres. The Spaniard is never afraid to get his socks dirty but will likely be more inclined to use his pace to get around Dragovic, rather than blasting through him. While physically imposing, Dragovic is hardly a brute as he possesses a slick range of passes that has attracted the likes of various Premier League clubs including Arsenal. The Austrian previously displayed his talents to Manchester United in last season’s Champions League where his Basel side defeated the Red Devils, preventing them from advancing out of the group stage.

The second matchup set to decide matters will feature Basel’s Mohamed Salah (pictured) and Chelsea’s Ashley Cole.

Salah is a right winger with blazing speed, cat-like balance and a slick touch. So far this term the Egyptian international has run Zenit and Tottenham ragged and also managed to score the crucial 27th minute leveler in the 2-2 draw with Spurs that sent Basel through to the semi-finals. The goal was an important feat for Salah who has been criticized for not being clinical enough in front of goal. But with more assists than any player in the competition (four), Salah possesses a wide array of weapons with which to terrorize opponents.

Cole will be the target of Salah’s trickery. The Chelsea full-back is expected to start after recovering from injury and he’ll be hoping for a clean bill of health if he is to put the clamps on the Basel winger. Whereas William Gallas and Benoît Assou-Ekotto were unable to cope with Salah, Cole is faster and smarter than both Spurs defenders. Further, Cole is a creator who is capable of getting forward and providing opportunities for his teammates. Salah, not known for his desire to get back on defense, could be in for a stamina battle if Cole decides to push hard up the flank.

Latest Posts
  1. Manchester City signs Turkish teen sensation Enes Unal

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    Chikhura Sachkhere Vs Bursaspor Getty Images

    The youngest ever player to score in Turkey’s Super Lig will now try to find the back of the net at the Etihad.

  2. 2015 Gold Cup: With the rest of CONCACAF making strides, this is USMNT’s chance to show they are, too

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:14 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT Getty Images

    While the rest of CONCACAF closes the gap on the USA and Mexico, it’s time for the USMNT to show they’re still improving, too.

  3. New York City mayor could give USWNT ticker tape parade in Manhattan

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT

    United States AP

    Are Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd the next athletes to be seen parading down the Canyon of Heroes?

  4. Study names Raheem Sterling most valuable young player in Europe

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    The only question is, who’s willing to pay the price?

  5. After Women’s World Cup triumph, Wambach, Ellis face questions about 2016 Olympics

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:17 PM EDT

    150706-Wambach-Ellis Getty Images

    Will Abby Wambach play at the 2016 Olympics in Rio? She hasn’t yet said.

  6. Real Madrid rejects FC Porto bid for Iker Casillas

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v Getafe CF - La Liga Getty Images

    The goalkeeper’s agent has said Casillas would like a move to Portugal, but Real is playing hardball.

  7. 2015 Copa America: Champions Chile dominate Team of the Tournament

    Jul 6, 2015, 6:26 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjyju2ntc3mgexowfjytvhodjkzgu5ytbhmtc3ywqw AP

    In the world of South American football, everything is coming up Chile.

  8. Etienne Capoue joins Watford for club record transfer fee

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-ASTERAS TRIPOLIS Getty Images

    After a failed spell at Tottenham, the French midfielder is now a Hornet.

  9. 2015 Gold Cup preview: United States look to defend title

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT

    Championship - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

    The Gold Cup kicks off tomorrow as Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT look to repeat as champions of CONCACAF.

  10. Barcelona officially announce signing of Arda Turan…for now

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:43 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    A strange clause in the contract allows Barca to sell the midfielder back to Atletico by July 20.

  11. Former FIFA inspector of 2018, 2022 World Cup bids banned by FIFA; Was leery of Russia, Qatar

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT

    DOHA, QATAR - SEPTEMBER 16:  Qatar 2022 Bid Chairman H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani makes a presentation to chief FIFA inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls to bring to a close FIFA's three day visit to the Gulf state at the Four Seasons hotel on September 16, 2010 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images for Qatar 2022) Getty Images

    Like the heavily-redacted Garcia report, you can’t help but think we won’t have details until we’re watching the court cases and trials of the arraigned.

  12. Bobby Wood finds a home with 2.Bundesliga side Union Berlin

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT

    BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY - APRIL 27: Bobby Wood of Aue in action during the Second Bundesliga match between Eintracht Braunschweig and Erzgebirge Aue at Eintracht Stadion on April 27, 2015 in Braunschweig, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The striker has signed a three-year deal with the second division side.

  13. Steve Nash — yes, that Steve Nash — registered with NPSL side New York Cosmos B

    Jul 6, 2015, 1:46 PM EDT

    Steve Nash

    The Cosmos B can afford to trot out Nash, considering they are 8-0-1 with a plus-34 goal differential under head coach Alecko Eskandarian.

  14. Official: Andrea Pirlo announces his arrival at New York City FC (video)

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT

    pirlo Getty Images

    Pirlo says an American arrival has been in the cards for a while.

  15. GLORY IN PHOTOS: Our favorite shots from the USWNT’s winning evening in Vancouver

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:51 AM EDT

    VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05:  Julie Johnston #19 of United States of America celebrates after winning the  FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 final match between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Plenty more flag-waving winners, emotional players, and post-World Cup couple smooches leap off the Women’s World Cup wire. Shall we look at a few?

  16. With legendary Wambach serving as super sub, the USWNT spun a team title tale

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:17 AM EDT

    USA's head coach Jill Ells (R) celebrate their win over Japan with Abby Wambach after the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. women are World Cup champions for the third time thanks to a full team effort that belied its star-first reputation.

  17. CONCACAF lays out reform plan post-scandal: “People are right to be skeptical”

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:23 AM EDT

    MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27:  FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.  (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) Getty Images

    CONCACAF lawyer Sam Gandhi’s tone hits all the right conciliatory notes, something that FIFA has been unable to do it in its response under Sepp Blatter.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip